SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

* SCHUMANN: Konzertstück for Four Horns and Orch.; WAGNER: Siegfried-Idyll; R. STRAUSS: Metamorphoses – Bavarian State Orch./ Kent Nagano – Farao Classics

************ MULTICHANNEL DISC OF THE MONTH ************** A unique assembly of three works in fine performances and surround sonics.

Published on October 22, 2012

* ROBERT SCHUMANN: Konzertstück for Four Horns and Orchestra; WAGNER: Siegfried-Idyll; R. STRAUSS: Metamorphoses – Bavarian State Orch./ Kent Nagano – Farao Classics multichannel SACD S 108061, 66:02 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

This is a well-chosen and well-recorded program of works which have an interesting tie-in to this orchestra whose history goes back almost 500 years. This is the one and only SACD available of the unusual Konzertstück for Four Horns and Orchestra. The three-movement work was composed in 1849, soon after the invention of valves on the natural horns which allowed them to now play all the notes of the chromatic scale. The two active outer movement of the piece still exploit the hunting horn qualities of the natural instruments. The center “Romance” movement is patterned on Spanish song and vacillates between a song of consolation and an elegy. The work is just perfect for hi-res surround reproduction, and the playing of the often hair-raisingly difficult horn parts by the four soloists here is without par.

The Siegfried-Idyll, with its use of themes from the Ring Cycle in a pastoral fashion, is my favorite Wagner orchestral work and about all I want to hear of The Ring, frankly. Instead of the 13-member chamber version of this work that we usually hear, Nagano conducts the full orchestral version, which gives more instrumental support to some of the themes. The third work is Richard Strauss’s mourning for the destruction of the musical and cultural life of German at the end of the Second World War. Its complete title is Metamorphosen for 23 Solo Strings, and it is a profoundly personal threnody which uses both the funeral march from Beethoven’s Third Symphony as well as music from Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde. Nagano gives the work a very deliberate and accurate interpretation, with attention to the subtle lines of each of the 23 solo strings. One of Strauss’ remembrances that resulted in the composition was watching the Allied bombing of the Munich Opera House in 1943. So even if the listener is not totally in tune with the nature of this work one can at least appreciate the feelings that stimulated it.

Some of the greatest conductors of the past have been music directors of the Bavarian State Orchestra, and though it is well represented in opera recordings, it should have more attention in the orchestral area as well.

—John Sunier




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